The following is the speech I gave to the ERYC full Council this week.
Asset alignment (or asset rationalisation) is all about money, lots and lots of it - NOT what it will cost but how much it will save if organisations came together to share buildings and other assets. It’s a way of not just the East Riding of Yorkshire Council (ERYC) but other public service providers such as Police, Fire, Health, and the Probation service saving significant amounts of money without cutting frontline services – but for it to work requires a major shift of thinking – a shift of thinking we’ve begun to see within the Council with the transformation agenda.
Needless to say that shift of thinking is not so evident with our public sector partners. They must move away from protectionism and look more towards sharing, they must move away from regionalisation and move more towards localisation and we must reach out to and encourage our partners to join us at the table – to come up with innovative ways of saving money through the sharing of resources.
Many will remember I’ve spoken and blogged on this subject in here before – and to be honest I was expecting (or perhaps hoping for) a little more movement. The ERYC Corporate Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee have tried to deal with this, but sadly little progress has been made mainly due to the partner public service organisations not willing to engage.
A great example of asset alignment is being proposed between Goole College and Goole Hospital in a proposed partnership arrangement between Hull College and Northern Lincolnshire and Goole Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust which could see the College first open a campus in underused parts of the Goole and District Hospital site, and eventually relocating completely as the site is extended. With both organisations sharing a modern facility and services.
It is important to recognise this is NOT about closing hospital wards, NOT about cutting services and NOT about reducing the courses offered by the College. It is about fully developing underused and under-utilised areas of the hospital to maximise the use of their estate for the best public value. A great example of what a little bit of radical thinking can come up with when it comes to asset alignment.
So why do Public Service providers not make the best use of their buildings and other assets by sharing with others like we will hopefully see in Goole? I would suggest it is for one simple reason – there is not sufficient will or desire amongst the providers to break out of their individual silos.
So where would the savings be through asset alignment? The obvious cash from the sales of some surplus assets, but then the on-going savings in heating, lighting, power, water, insurance, cleaning, catering, telephones - not to mention backroom staff. But what about pooling and maintenance of vehicles and equipment - and the favourite expenditure I.T?
The key to making asset rationalisation work is changing the mind-set. Elected Members make up the Fire Authority, by far the largest part of the Police Authority, and will have an increasing role in the Health Service. Members do have a role in setting the strategic direction of partner organisations. To really make asset rationalisation work I’m absolutely certain members can play more of a pivotal role in setting the strategic direction of the public service providers in this area – and I urge them to do so and make sure the right people come to the table.